Archives for posts with tag: public education

This weekend’s Chicago Tribune reports a one year moratorium by Illinois on online virtual charter schools.

Why? To study how online schools deliver on student performance and costs.

Is that really the issue?

I suspect that Chicago’s western suburban school districts are beginning to feel something of what Chicago and other large urban school systems have been feeling for some time. Threatened by social and technological changes.

For years Detroit’s public schools have been emptying into charter and suburban alternatives. Chicago’s experiencing much the same. This seems to be the case for more of the large American urban school systems. And when suburban systems receive the students, they also get the state dollars. Yes, a challenge but also a situation that strengthens survival of suburban systems.

So, what now for the suburbs as we begin to see further splintering of monolithic public education? You can see how the dawning of online education is giving public education systems the jitters.

But what can they expect if the prime outcome of public education, urban or suburban, is not being delivered? And parents and communities begin looking elsewhere?

Whether or not school districts and teachers’ unions like it, change is certainly ahead.



school closings controversy  5  May 2013There are very few of us who don’t believe that the job of Mayor of the City of Chicago is anything less than an enormous responsibility.  God bless the person who aspires to the job.  These days, Rahm Emmanuel.

Mayor Emmanuel these days has one especially big challenge.  Fix schools in Chicago.  He and his administration believes part of the schools fix is to close more than fifty.  Reasons are given for these closings.  But closings are mostly on the south and west sides of the city, in predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods.  No surprise that there is significant suspicion about this.

Friday’s Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago Public School documents raise questions about these closings.

school closings controversy  4  May 2013

school closings controversy  3  May 2013

Once again, less-than-high-tech sharing of this story from today’s Chicago Tribune –

May 8th Chicago Tribune

May 8th Chicago Tribune

In early March I posted what you can’t read won’t hurt you on this issue of justice in public education.   Now Chicago Public Schools is running into unexpected criticism from its hearing officers (retired state and federal judges) who after reviewing proposed closings of 53 schools oppose 13 of those closings.

controversy over 13 of 53 schools Chicago Public Schools proposes to close

controversy over 13 of 53 schools Chicago Public Schools proposes to close

What’s going on?

Schools are being closed in American cities.

Philadelphia.  Newark.  Washington.  Chicago.  Detroit.

They say schools are being closed for good reasons.  Money.  Underperformance.  Money.  Shifting populations.  Money.

I’m $ure a good ca$e can be made for the$e rea$on$.

But what else is happening as urban schools close?Philadelphia closes schools

Schools in poorer and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately being closed.  Since 2001 Chicago has closed 100, all but two in poor neighborhoods.  88% of affected students have been African-American.

There is no arguing with the sharp pencils.  Population shifts.  Deficits.

A couple weeks ago we returned home to a pile of newspapers.  I hadn’t stopped delivery.  But I had some time today to catch up on reading.  Internet is good but I like to hold sheets of newsprint, to leisurely page back and forth through them.  Tactile satisfaction.  Newspaper also forms a nap inducing warm quiet micro-environment when placed over and around one’s head.  Try it.

At the top of one Chicago Tribune front page “CPS closes in on school cuts … anxiety grows as district offers preliminary list of 129 campuses that could be shuttered“.  It hardly seems news anymore to hear of large urban school districts closing schools, increasing the ratio of students to teacher.  We just accept it as a way of life.

But what caught my attention was the map showing areas of the city where schools may be closed.  I can’t get the Chi Trib graphics article to appear.  So here’s my elegant low/high tech solution:  an iPhone photo of the paper –

schools that could be closed  Chi Trib Feb 18  2013

Compare this map with Open City’s Chicago Public Schools Tiers  where areas of Chicago are identified as one of four Tiers.  Tier 1 are places where people tend to “make less money and have less education”.  Tier 4 would be where people “make more money and have more education”.

Guess which Tier will overwhelmingly lose more schools?  Tier 1 or Tier 4?  That wasn’t hard.

Okay.  The areas about to lose schools are areas with less and less children, according to the authorities.  But these same areas are also home to children living in the least educated and lowest income households in Chicago.

If most of the CPS school closings take place in Tier 1 neighborhoods, it will have an even greater impact than a closing in a Tier 4.  If a neighborhood school closes, parents do not believe it will mean a better education for their children.  My child may be assigned to a school with a better building, a greater concentration of teacher and material resources.  But she will need to travel farther.  Be in an unfamiliar place.  Increase the likelihood of running into hostility.  Gangs?  Regardless of promises, who is ahead when my neighborhood no longer has a school?

Distribution of wealth, of education resources, will be to the most populous neighborhoods of Chicago.  That seems sensible.  But it will also mean a more challenging, harder experience for the poorest children, for the children who already face the greatest hurdles in becoming educated.

I see this as an issue of justice.  In its desire to solve one problem by making the education system more efficient and effective, the solution will contribute to another problem.  Chicago will continue to offer swaths of the city where hopelessness is cultivated in an increasingly entrenched population of undereducated Chicagoans.

If Chicago continues to close schools in its poorest neighborhoods, is this justice?

Maybe Chicago will have more and more of its citizzzens who find napping to be the best use of a newspaper.

…the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor
students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from
grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing.a long walk

Kenyon Sivels sent the link to this NY Times article on the alarming current trend of disparity of education for the affluent and the poor reported by Jason DeParle.

Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share
of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to
Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the
gap is 45 points.

Kenyon is a cadet at our College for Officer Training in Chicago.  In a few months he’ll be ‘on the field’ as we say in the Salvation Army.  Working with families, children, communities.  Doing the most good in the name of Jesus with those for who God shows a preference.  emanuel and brizard

While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.

It’s not the affluent.  There are forces, perks, networks, systems, powers in the world which favor particular individuals, families, groups, nations.  The poor are not among them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

I remember seeing boys in a meeting on the west side of Chicago making presentations on what they would be when they grew up.  Businessmen.  Professionals.  I think it was a Martin Luther King Day observance.  Hopeful.  Eager.  With that school yardforward-leaning kind of energy that says ‘I’m going somewhere and it’s a place not anything like where I am now’.  On the west side.  Trouble in the streets.  In the schools.  In my home.  Too many dead-end people around reminding me of where I will be if I’m not eager at school.

“It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that a low-income student, no matter how intrinsically bright, moves up the socioeconomic ladder,” said Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford. “What we’re talking about is a threat to the American dream.”

Many, most of those boys, grew up, bit by bit losing that forward-leaning look, the brightness of eye.  Hope.

I am praying for Kenyon, his fellow cadets, my fellow Salvation Army officers, our friends of this Army in this American land.  That we do the most good we can for those who have come to expect the least.

So much content last week at the CCDA conference in Minneapolis.

Friday night we heard the preaching of Charles Blake, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ.  Bishop Blake started with barely a growl but ended with convicting power.  That when there is nothing, when it is too late, then God acts.  It comforted and inspired us to hear this.

Saturday morning Nicole Baker Fulgham, founder and president of The Expectations Project, talked to us about America’s public schools.

Nicole said that 60 years after school desegregation we yet have two “separate and shockingly unequal public school systems” determined by race and economics.  She cited statistics:  by the fourth grade students from households in poverty are three grade levels behind in reading skills.  All three theorized causes for education underperformance – the school system, families and parents, poverty and economic disparity – are intertwined.

They need to be addressed by a reconciled school system which holds students to strong academic attainment regardless of racial or income gaps, engages and empowers families for the educational process, and provides a high quality school for every child.

What’s required to make this happen?

  • a mindset shift (do we really believe that the least likely child can succeed?)
  • reconciling the current debate by working for compassionate and collective responsibility rather than blaming and scapegoating
  • transformational courageous change which is radical rather than mere ‘tinkering’
  • action by the faith community in the education process as vision casters, laborers and advocates

“These are just some of the things I think about every second of the day.”  Is Nicole Baker Fulgham intense about America’s schools?

How intense are we about our schools?  Some appear to feel that it’s too late to save public school systems, especially our large urban systems in Chicago, St Louis, Detroit and many more cities.

But if Bishop Blake’s word is good it may be time finally for God to work in the schools through his people on earth, in our cities:  the church.

Now here’s something that runs counter to perceptions about families of school age children living in Chicago.

Crib Chatter reported on a recent article in Crain’s Chicago Business saying parents are trapped in Chicago because they are unable to sell their houses and move to what is considered the more child-friendly suburbs (better schools, safer neighborhoods, etc). 

My eyebrows rose at “they’re forced to become involved in CPS schools” and “enrollment at Catholic elementary schools in Chicago is up in each of the past two school years, the first time that’s happened since 1965” and “could this really be a boom for the city as, at least in some neighborhoods, trapped parents are forced to improve the schools?”

Who would have ever thought that maybe Chicago schools will benefit from the housing crisis?  Watch the first 90 seconds of this video from Crain’s.

The Chicago Tribune today contained this commentary by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane.  Duncan and Murnane explain why economic inequality is the real root of learning disparity between students in urban schools and elsewhere.

What to do?  Early investment in children through quality pre-school programs. 

But the issue of economic inequality needs to be directly addressed through economic policies that strengthen poor families, for instance such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

There is no beneft from not doing the most good when it comes to children.

Since the start of this millennium Detroit closed dozens of schools as the city’s population dropped 25% from 951,000 in 2000 to 714,000 in 2010.   Detroit has squirmed in trying to deal with this crisis.   Find alternatives to public education as we know it?  What do we do for those whom the alternatives are not available?

When Detroit Public schools open next month students will find nine new schools. 

See this Free Press story about the first half of projects made possible by a $500 million school bond program.  Some people in Detroit still believe that students need good places to learn.

Today’s Free Press reported on the continuing attempts to save public education in Detroit.  45 additional schools are now being proposed for charter.  Detroit Public Schools data projects it will serve 58,000 students in 2014.  In the late 1990s 175,000 attended its schools.

As its public education shrinks, Detroit’s children will yet need to learn.  Who will teach them?

The Salvation Army in the Midwest is starting to turn more attention to youth development, to the possibilities for young people to grow and thrive, even in places that seem least likely to allow it.

Is it time for the Army to take a vested interest in educating some of the young people of Detroit, Chicago, St Louis, Milwaukee?  If we can’t do this for all, what about our Junior Soldiers, boys and girls who have pledged to take their place in the Army to serve in the name of Jesus?  Perhaps not home schooling, but what of corps schooling?

Can we have some discussion about this opportunity in Detroit?

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